What does the Bible say about gluttony? It is not classed as a “sin” as such, rather associated with a wide variety of over-indulgences, pride and arrogance.
Ezekiel 16:49 “Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.”
Pr 23:20-21 “Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat, for drunkards and gluttons become poor (in spirit).”
Prov 28:7. “A companion of gluttons disgraces his father.”
In Titus Paul quotes a Cretan poet who describes his own countrymen as “evil brutes, lazy gluttons” and says that stereotype was true. The Minoans were known for luxury and a life of ease (like the Sodomites) a heritage that obviously framed a self-Cretan caricature in the ancient world.
Therefore, John the Baptist, the final Old Testament prophet, was described as coming “not eating or drinking.” Jesus similarly was always moderate with food and drink (except with his first miracle).
Jesus wants us to be free and our joy to be complete. John 15: ‘If you abide in me, and I in you…your joy will be complete.’
Gluttony makes us miserable and ultimately unhealthy and can be deadly (one of the seven deadly sins). New Zealand is high up in the ranks of the global pandemic of obesity which leads to massive health problems:
- Leading cause of heart disease, followed by
- Diabetes Type II (often caused by obesity)
Obesity has surged in NZ, about the same amongst men and women and higher in some ethnic groups. The latter is more to do with what kind of food is eaten regularly rather than being a glutton, per se. That’s to do with socio-economic factors, culture, traditions (in more than just New Zealand, the patterns repeat elsewhere. Some of it is related to metabolic rate and other physiological differences between races).
Medical experts said yesterday, “the ‘silent and smouldering’ diabetes epidemic will claim tens of thousands of Kiwis and cripple New Zealand’s health sector within a decade” and Noel Davies who has lived with diabetes type II for 30 years, said it is as serious as cancer (The Press 04 March). [I stress, people with diabetes or who are obese are not necessarily gluttons].
But in the ancient world, eating essentially organic foods, one had to really over indulge to become fat; in modern life it is different, an imbalanced habitual diet of over fatty foods and may not necessarily involve over eating. “Gluttony” in the biblical sense is about arrogance, pride, over indulgence (of many kinds, such as with power, money, food, adrenalin seeking as a source of validation or need, cars, obsessive TV watching, etc). The debacles amongst the NZ finance companies such as Hubbard, Strategic Finance, Lombard (directors in court today), Dominion Finance were all forms of gluttony, where people over-indulged and ended up hurting themselves (some in prison) and in many cases, thousands around them. The sin of Sodom.
We should not condemn people who are fat or struggle with food issues, but could ask some helpful questions.
- Do I gorge myself on food?
- Do I over eat because of laziness, idleness, depression, discouragement, self-pity.
- Do thoughts of food rule my day? Do I turn to food to solve (or distract me from) my problems?
- Am I mastered by my appetites? Do I crave food and show little restraint when it comes to food?
The Christian life seeks to be free from enslavements through self control so that we are not overwhelmed or bound by anything but Christ (whose yoke is easy and light). Lent is a practical device in some traditions that assists this.
The classic gluttony skit from Monty Python, the world’s fattest man (Mr Creosote), while a bit gross, makes the point. “Just one more, Mr Creosote…” (go to coNZervative in the bar above, if you’d like to watch the clip).